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Question for a friend's young GSD regarding anxiety/separation anxiety

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Farley

Farlekiin the- Dragonborn
 
 
Barked: Wed Nov 14, '12 1:50pm PST 
Hi, my friend has a roughly 10 month-old GSD pup named Koda that he says has some issues with separation anxiety. They got her from an accidental litter from some random people, at 12 weeks old. Koda is housetrained just fine, and she is crate-trained.

So, to sum it up:

Koda is fine when left at home in her crate.

When taken to visit at a friend's home, Koda paces, will not settle, and will toilet in the home (even if it is the home of someone she knows and likes).

When my friend takes Koda to his parent's home (whom Koda knows and loves) she is a BIT better, but still will not settle and will pace a lot. If they leave her there overnight, she shows very severe anxiety and will go to the bathroom all over the home.

My friend wants to try a Thundershirt or anxiety wrap, so would it be easier just to go that route, or since Koda is only 10 months old, should they try behavioral modification first? I don't have much experience with separation anxiety so I was hoping I'd find some answers on here.

Edited by author Fri Nov 16, '12 12:45am PST

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Sabi

When the night- closes in I will- be there
 
 
Barked: Wed Nov 14, '12 4:38pm PST 
If the dog is acustomed to being crated that could be the issue. Buddy cannot sleep comfortably without his crate. He paces, whines and pants.
If it is SA your friend needs to speak with a behaviorist and start learning.
SA can be a lifelong struggle and can put the dog at risk. I would take a step or twelve back. First shorten the visits, get the dog out of there before she gets uncomfortable. Gradually lengthen the time. Give her a toy or treat she enjoys to distract her while she's there, and make it available only on visits. He needs to understand that owners often cause problems by winding the dog up or worrying it as they are leaving. Start ignoring the dog 15-20 minutes before he leaves, no petting, talking, playing, etc. When its time to go get up, get your stuff, say good bye in a neutral tone and leave.
When he comes back he needs to not make a fuss, just come in, put his stuff down and relax. The idea is to minimize the event of coming and going. Convince the dog that nothing big is going on, there is no reason to worry.
Is he dropping her of while he's working? Same idea, just drop her off, Later pup and walk away.
She's still young, I would definitely try modifying the behavior before anything else.
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Cain

Q.E.D., baby,- Q.E.D.!
 
 
Barked: Wed Nov 14, '12 8:17pm PST 
This behavior is frequently associated with poor nerves in a dog - and if this was an "oops" litter, this could easily be what you're looking at. You can't fix a dog with poor/bad nerves, although you can lessen the intensity of some of the associated behaviors by doing lots of obedience and lots of socialization. A dog with poor nerves will always have them, will always be uncomfortable in new places, will always exhibit these types of behaviors - you will not ever make a poor/weak nerved dog into a relaxed social animal simply because this is a breeding/genetic issue - they are hardwired that way. That doesn't mean that you should throw in the towel, though - as I said, lots of obedience and socialization/experience in a variety of settings will help decrease the level of distress for both the dog & your friend.
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Farley

Farlekiin the- Dragonborn
 
 
Barked: Thu Nov 15, '12 1:40pm PST 
Thanks for the replies! I am glad to get some insight from people that have lots of GSD experience. I forwarded your responses to him and he said he definitely doesn't make big deals out of coming or going, but he will try and get more things to keep her occupied while away from home (treat balls, chewies, toys, etc), and that is is a good idea to keep visits short at first, so they can leave before she starts to get stressed, thereby avoiding more negative experiences.

He mentioned that the lack of a safe place such as her crate might be why she gets so anxious when away from home. He said her crate is a rather heavy one, so I told him to look into a soft-sided easily transportable crate that she can have as her safe place when she is away from home. Of course I mentioned not to leave Koda closed up in the soft-sided crate alone, as it could easily be destroyed by a stressed out dog.

Edited by author Thu Nov 15, '12 1:40pm PST

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Sabi

When the night- closes in I will- be there
 
 
Barked: Thu Nov 15, '12 7:01pm PST 
Farley something as simple as draping a blanket over a table could satisfy her need for a safe place if push comes to shove. When Sabs was young she was fond of closetslaugh out loud
I would not discount what Cain said however I deal specifically with poorly bred GSD's and it is not uncommon for adolescent dogs to be uncomfortable in different settings even with good breeding behind them. It's not uncommon for this breed as a whole to be uncomfortable away from their people. Keep in mind that a GSD thinks its people are the world. Sabi to this day hates it when I am not in her sight. I have had roomies and family alike complain that when I leave she simply shuts off until I return. With a young dog like your friends it wouldn't surprise me in the least if she is simply distressed at him leaving, or the thought of him leaving. I will also caution that I have seen some evidence over the years that female dogs with male people seem to get overly attached. I will also add that none of my adopters have had issues with SA.
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Tiller- (Skansen's- Ira in the M

I DO Exist...To- Drive You Batty
 
 
Barked: Thu Nov 15, '12 9:37pm PST 
Farley, step away a sec from the SA and think of this more from a socialization angle and also about insecurity. These are more the issues.

GSDs of more dubious pedigree can go through intense fear stages, and some American lines....while the import lines spend their later fear imprint cycle ages acting like enraged lunatics.....instead show intense fear.

How open are they to advice, I wonder thinking Hopefully somewhat! smile

One of the things to advise firstly, is that it is on one hand great and on the other hand terrible that she feels so nurtured within the comfort of her crate. So while of course you don't want to mess with her security blanket...i.e., her crate.....encouraging her to leave it when in fact that may be what she'd prefer would be excellent. One thing they might want to try is to lock the door to the crate, with her outside of it, when they feed her or do anything fun. Before anything groovy....feed time, treat time, play time, walk time and so on....walk over to the crate and lock the door shut. The point being that she sees that. I would cease and desist feeding her in there if that is what they are doing. Obviously, these are just very gentle motions.

Second, continuing on with the crate obsession, this is the sort of dog....given her crate dependency....that may do very well with a "place" command. Let her have her mat, but her HAPPY mat! A special mat that is not down all the time. But when it is food time, out comes the mat and her bowl gets placed there. When they bring home a new toy, out comes the mat. If she likes cuddles....out comes the mat and they can sit on it and snuggle her. Time for a bone, same thing. Each time, the mat is taken from somewhere it is hidden....say a closet. And when she sees the mat, what she will think is "whoa!, something GREAT is coming." Couple this with having her down-stay on the mat. Short intervals first, then extended. They can also have a blanket...like a thick blanket that will really absorb scent....in her crate, and when she is having her down-stay time on the mat, just put her nice smelly blankie on the mat with her, for a reassuring scent. If they then bring the mat and smelly blanket with them to these newer places, she has her spot. Her little slice of familiar place/smell/home.

They also need to work on "comfort obedience," which is to reward her ridiculously for a simple obedience pattern away from home. You can use this for proofing, to take her somewhere new, work the pattern with some insane kind of reward, like a raw slab of liver. Say "it's time to work the pattern!" and do this.

This little girl should be being taken to new places at least three times a week. Do the pattern work there, then bring out her mat and blankie with a bone, have her down on it and stay for five or ten minutes with the owner stepping back and leaving some air space. Then rework the pattern and go home.

Edited by author Thu Nov 15, '12 9:38pm PST

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Sabi

When the night- closes in I will- be there
 
 
Barked: Thu Nov 15, '12 10:07pm PST 
Tiller just curious, so are you saying that on overnights at a friends house she shouldn't have a crate? I know for my Dane we dragged around an old jacket of mine that became her place, and Sabs has a small mat. I was thinking that if he is leaving her overnight because he works or something that she would be less stressed and have fewer negative associations if at least for now her need for a safe place was being met. Thats all.
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Tiller- (Skansen's- Ira in the M

I DO Exist...To- Drive You Batty
 
 
Barked: Thu Nov 15, '12 10:31pm PST 
Oh hell yeah! laugh out loud Bring the crate....don't want to traumatize the dog! I hope my post didn't come off as if I was saying no crate. Just bring the mat when you come to the less familiar place AS WELL wink Put that down for her, bring her crate in before you go.

I think we need to allow animals security blankets when they need them, but if we don't offer them incentive to look beyond them, they do become crutches.

It's an interesting view that I don't crate train my own dogs. I know it's controversial to say, but I do feel they lower coping mechanisms, because there is that "safe haven" When I foster puppies, I typically will keep them in my bathroom when I can, vs. the crate. I just placed a little boy....Dogster Lucille fostered him for a time....and he was just a shy, shy thing! No one else in his litter was. Dogster Lola fostered them before I got them, and she was already observing how shy he was. I kept him in my bathroom or loose in the house save for overnight....he got his supper, then into his crate for bed, and then in the morning after some out time spent the whole time in my bathroom until even playtime. People come in and out of there to do their business, shower, shave, whatever have you. He was free to watch us, got used to the sounds, etc. He could stay away if he wanted to, or be near if he wanted to. It really helped him along, for he could make those decisions himself. Wanted to feel supported, he'd often come nearby. Once I felt he had made some progress, he went to Lucille for a totally new surrounding, and she did fantastic finishing touches with him. He then was able to be adopted by a lovely Scottish family, who lived more urban, with cars and street noises and such, but adjusted in no time flat! Is doing great! This from one who would go into a panic when he was anywhere new.

But of course bring the crate. The dog is used to it and it is important to her. You just want other options also, to give her a chance to grow smile
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Sabi

When the night- closes in I will- be there
 
 
Barked: Fri Nov 16, '12 6:01am PST 
Thanks for clarifying Tiller, I do agree that the crate can work against you. However they are a great tool. Because I work and because of the dogs I have I find them useful, and I always crate train anything I am fostering.
Buddy had no safe place, no security of any kind from the age of 3 months to 11 months when he came to me. He had been beaten, starved, shot, neglected and spent the whole time tied to a tree. They ran him over with a quad and hosed him down for complaining. He had become a raging mess. I gave him a crate so he had a safe place and so we could safely be around him. I have allowed him to continue to enjoy his craate because frankly he deserves it. He hangs out with me but we found over the years that he has so many triggers that it becomes difficult to judge when he might react. Quite honestly, he overwhelmed me. He should have been with a professional, instead he got stuck with a dog handler who studied behavior, knew genetics and had some success with hard case dogs red face
Farley I dislike the cop out of 'bad breeding' and I never buy into it. With diligent work things can be over come in most cases. The fact that your friend is asking for help is promising. I may be close enough to help if you like.
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